Andreas Pereira is looking forward to returning to Manchester United on Sunday, but in the summer it was time to leave. He was so convinced he had to move on after a stop-start 10 years at Old Trafford that he dodged face-to-face talks with Erik ten Hag for fear that the new manager would be able to convince him to stick around.
Ten Hag knew all about Pereira from his time as a coach at PSV Eindhoven and there were conversations between football director John Murtough and Pereira’s representatives about taking a closer look at the midfielder during the preseason tour of Thailand and Australia.
But Pereira resisted the temptation to hear what Ten Hag had to say and instead asked to leave. His mind was made up and, after six months of regular football in a Fulham team that has surprised in the Premier League so far this season, he’s happy with his decision. He returns to Old Trafford on Sunday for Fulham’s first FA Cup quarterfinal (stream live on ESPN+, 12:30 p.m. ET) in more than a decade.
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“I didn’t speak with Ten Hag,” Pereira tells ESPN. “I know him because I worked with him at PSV but I was determined in my head and maybe if I spoke with the manager again I would stay. In my head I was thinking ‘I need to go, I need to feel confident and play’ and that’s what I did.
“At United I had a lot of memories; good memories, bad memories. It’s been 10 years at the club. I arrived when I was 16 so, you know, a young boy. It was an amazing ride but I got to the stage where I thought maybe it was best not to stay.
“I wanted to feel more loved and I wanted to play every game. What Fulham offered me and what [manager] Marco [Silva] offered me, it was the perfect opportunity.”
United staff members who were at the club long before Ten Hag were already well aware of Pereira’s headstrong nature. In 2017, he defied Jose Mourinho’s wish for him to stay at the club and instead insisted on joining Valencia on loan. He admitted at the time to being “nervous” about taking on Mourinho but he insists he has no regrets.
“It was very good for me because I played a lot of games in different leagues in Spain and Italy,” he says. “I learned a lot of new things that maybe in England I wouldn’t have learned. It made me a more complete player. Of course, you have the bad side because you don’t stay in one place but every year I was feeling good and my aim was to come back to Manchester United.”
The temporary move to Valencia was one of four loans during his time at Old Trafford, along with spells at Granada, Lazio and Flamengo. He was so impressive at Flamengo that when United sent scouts to watch Joao Gomes — now at Wolverhampton Wanderers — they reported back that Pereira was the Brazilian side’s best player.
Last summer, there was interest from clubs in Spain, Italy and Germany but Pereira, now 27, was determined to prove that he could flourish in the Premier League. A key part of Fulham’s midfield under Silva, he is ranked sixth in the league for assists.
“I’m feeling at home here and it’s been great so far,” Pereira said. “When I first came here they told me that every year in the Premier League they would go down. The main objective was to stay in the Premier League but I spoke with the manager and he told me what he wanted to achieve and the way he wanted to play.
“He was very ambitious and I really liked that. When we were five games into the season we realised we could do something great with the team and it’s been amazing. He’s very, very strong and he’s a great guy. I’ve been enjoying my football so it’s been amazing.”
Pereira will be reunited with old friends on Sunday, coming up against old United academy teammate Marcus Rashford. Like Pereira, Rashford is also having his best season as a professional having scored a career best 26 goals.
“I’ve known Marcus for a very, very long time,” Pereira said. “He’s a great guy and I think the difference this season is the manager has shown a lot of faith in him and given him a lot of confidence, just letting him play his game. That’s what he’s doing.
“He’s showing what he can do on the pitch, he’s free of injuries and he’s enjoying every moment, You can see that in the way he plays. For us, it’s something not good but we have to try to deal with that.”
Rashford or Rooney? Andreas Pereira plays You Have To Answer
Fulham’s Andreas Pereira picks between Brazilian legends and Manchester United icons before he faces his former club in the FA Cup.
Pereira’s first meeting with United this season ended in a narrow defeat at Craven Cottage after Alejandro Garnacho scored a last-minute winner on the final weekend before the break for the World Cup. Fulham’s form since the restart has lifted them into eighth in the table and just three points off the top six.
Victory over United would earn a first FA Cup semifinal since 2002 and Pereira believes his new team can cause a shock at his old home.
“I’ll have mixed emotions,” Pereira said. “It’s a difficult game but I’m happy to play against Manchester United. It will be my first time back and feeling that atmosphere. I’ve never been there as a visitor so it will be something new. They have a lot of confidence.
“They’re playing really, really well but sometimes when you’re that confident it’s not good as well. We know we have to work very, very hard to win against them but we will do everything and try to play the perfect game.”